Thursday, June 16, 2011
Following the Boston Bruins 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night to capture the first Stanley Cup for Boston in 39 years, Tim Thomas was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the playoffs. As the 40th different man to win the award, he also became only the second American to win the award as well as the oldest player to win the award at age 37.
Thomas with the Smythe Trophy
Thomas, who had lost his job as the Bruins starting goaltender the previous year to Tukka Rask, was the subject of rampant trade rumors entering the 2010-11 season and opted to not have his mask decorated in Bruins specific colors in anticipation of being dealt to another club, and instead went with a stark white and grey mask.
After going 36-11-7 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.10 goals against average in 2008-09, which earned him the coveted Vezina Trophy, Thomas saw his record plummet to 17-18-8, while his save percentage dipped to .915 and his goals against was up to 2.56 while starting just seven games after January.
Thomas poses with the Vezina Trophy
Following the season Thomas had hip surgery in May and the effect was dramatic, as Thomas won his first seven starts in 2010-11, three by shutout, while giving up a ridiculous five goals. He quickly won back the starting job as a result and by the end of the season Thomas had appeared in 57 regular season games, winning 35 while losing just 11 with 7 overtime losses. He also set a new NHL record with a .938 save percentage and dropped his goals against average to 2.00, a NHL career low.
Once in the playoffs, the Bruins, who won the Northeast Division but only had the fifth best record in the conference, were taken to a Game 7 by their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens before advancing with a win in overtime. They dispatched the Philadelphia Flyers in four straight to earn some rest before the Tampa Bay Lightning also forced Boston to the maximum seven games. Thomas was brilliant in Game 7 against the Lightning, shutting them out 1-0, his second clean sheet of the round, which sent Boston to the finals as Eastern Conference champions.
Vancouver won two narrow victories at home, the first a 1-0 victory, with the lone goal coming with just 19 seconds left in the game, and the second requiring overtime. Back in Boston the Bruins utterly demolished Vancouver by scores of 8-1 and 4-0, as Thomas had now only allowed five goals in four games yet the series was tied at two games apiece.
The Bruins then returned to Vancouver, only to lose yet another 1-0 game on the road. What other goalie in the Stanley Cup Finals has given up just six goals in five games but found themselves behind in the series?
Boston again evened the series with a dominating 5-2 win in Game 6, leading 4-0 with less than half the first period completed, before clinching the cup back in Vancouver with last night's 4-0 victory on the road in only Thomas' seventh season in the league, as compared to Martin Broduer's 18 seasons, despite Thomas being just two years younger than Brodeur.
Thomas earned the Conn Smythe by setting records, including the Most Saves in a Playoff Year (798) and Most Saves in the Stanley Cup Finals (238). He also had a 1.98 goals against average and a .940 save percentage as well as four shutouts during the playoffs, including becoming the first goalie to earn a shutout in Game 7 of the finals on the road in NHL history. In the finals, his goals against average was just 1.15 and his save percentage was a stellar .967.
All this for a man whose route to the NHL was an unconventional journey from four years with the Vermont Catamounts of the NCAA from 1003-94 to 1996-97 to time in the ECHL in Birmingham, Alabama, to Houston, Texas of the AHL and overseas to HIFK in Finland where he won a championship, all during 1997-98.
Thomas with HIFK
He signed with the Edmonton Oilers and played with their top minor league club, the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL before once again returning to HIFK. He spent the 1999-00 season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL prior to spending the next two seasons with AIK in Sweden in 2000-01 and Karpat Oulu again in Finland for 2001-02, a far cry from the usual NCAA to AHL to NHL path taken by more elite prospects.
Signed as a free agent by the Bruins organization in August of 2002, Thomas was assigned to the Providence Bruins in the AHL. He also made his long-awaited NHL debut on October 19, 2002, one of four NHL games he would play that season.
His entire 2003-04 season was spent with Providence and the NHL lockout of 2004-05 saw Thomas return to the familiar territory of Finland, this time with Jokerit of Helsinki, where he had an outstanding season, going 34-7-13 and earn the league MVP and Golden Helmet awards.
Thomas with Jokerit during the 2004-05 NHL lockout
When play in the NHL resumed in 2005-06, Thomas was back in North America, where he split time with Providence (26 games) and Boston (38 games). Beginning in 2006-07, Thomas was now finally a full-time member of the NHL at the age of 31.
After a strong 2007-08 season in which he was 28-19-6 and lowered his goals against from 3.13 to 2.44 and raised his save percentage from .905 to .921 the year before winning the Vezina in 2008-09.
Today's featured jersey is a 2010-11 Boston Bruins Tim Thomas jersey as worn during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Bruins adopted this style in 2006-07 when the new Reebok Edge jerseys were introduced, but they were loosely based on the Bruins traditional jerseys worn from 1968 to 1973, and were easily the best by far of the brand new designs introduced that season.
Today's video segment begins with Thomas accepting the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Next, the Top 10 Tim Thomas saves.
Finally, a detailed look at Thomas' white mask.